Drones have been increasingly used in oil and gas operations due to their speed, efficiency, and safety capabilities. Pipelines are an area of the industry that requires regular surveying and (difficult to manage) inspection, often over large, often remote, areas and potentially hazardous conditions. From rusting overland connections to underground methane leaks, undetected damage can lead to fires, explosions, and loss of life, while having severe environmental physical effects. This makes regular inspection and surveillance for safety purposes a must. And a commercial drone is just the tool for the job.
Traditionally, oil and gas pipelines have been monitored by overland vehicles and manned aircraft using spotting techniques and surveillance technology – time consuming, labour intensive, and expensive methods. Drones can bring an added speed and higher level of safety to pipeline inspection and maintenance due to their flexibility and ability to record and transmit data, whether for route planning, as-built surveying, or regular inspection for maintenance purposes.
Benefits of using drones for pipeline surveillance and inspection
1. Easy access
Whatever the stage of a pipeline project, drones are able to travel over large distances and hazardous terrains (such as water crossings or wildlife zones) in a systematic fashion, relatively safely and quickly, saving on time and costs such as fuel and labour, while reducing the need for human inspectors to make such trips. This means that they can make a number of time-sensitive visits to a site for regular data capture.
2. Map making
Using photogrammetry, drones can put together a 3 dimensional map of a selected area for planning and inspection purposes in a few short hours. With quick reporting and delivery, this technology allows surveying teams to quickly generate a point cloud representation of a given surface and get to work.
3. Smart data
From topography mapping to locating boundaries to stock monitoring, drones are able to photograph, film, and record a large amount of diverse real-time data and report it in an accessible format.
4. Accurate detection
Using thermal imaging and the latest detection technology, drones can conduct thermal inspections to identify hair line leaks, structural damage, vegetation growth, and other potential pipeline hazards such as pitting (a localised form of corrosion difficult to detect with the naked eye). Plus, drones can work around labour teams without requiring a shutdown of a project that is still underway.
Looking for a surveillance solution for your pipeline project or next civil engineering venture? Think drone! Cost-effective, safe, and accurate, drone technology is the way of the future when it comes to industrial surveying and surveillance initiatives and has many advantages over manned inspection. As experienced drone operators, we offer total aerial mapping services to professional organisations and government bodies across Africa. Chat to us about your drone needs today.